Simon Peter. "Symeon" seems to be the best-supported spelling in this place. The same form of the name is found in Luke 2:25 and Acts 13:1 ; it also occurs in Acts 15:14 , where St. James refers to St. Peter's speech on the great question of the circumcision of Gentile Christians. It is the form always used in the Septuagint Version of the Old Testament. The old man's thoughts go back to his early years; he describes himself by the familiar name of his youth; he uses that Greek form of it which was most distinctively Jewish. But he joins with the old name, which spoke of Judaism, the new name which the Lord Jesus had given him—the name which describes him as a stone or rock, which indicates also his close connection with that Rock on which the Church is built, which is Christ. His names combine Hebrew and Greek, Jewish and Christian, associations. He is writing probably, as in his First Epistle, to Churches of mingled Jewish and Gentile elements. The first word of the Epistle supplies an argument for the genuineness of the Epistle. It is scarcely possible that an imitator, who was acquainted with the First Epistle ( 1 Peter 3:1 ), and shows, as some say, so much anxiety to identify himself with the apostle ( 1 Peter 1:12-18 ), would have announced himself by a name different from that used in the First Epistle, and would have adopted a form of the Hebrew name varying from that which occurs so frequently in the Gospels. A servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ. St. Peter, like St. Paul, describes himself as a servant, literally, "a slave," a bondman of Jesus Christ. We are not our own; we are bought with a price; we have work to do for our Master. St. Peter's work was that of a missionary, an apostle sent into the world to win souls for Christ (comp. Romans 1:1 ; Philippians 1:1 ; Titus 1:1 ; James 1:1 ; Jud James 1:1 ). To them that have obtained like precious faith with us. The word rendered "obtained" ( τοῖς λαχοῦσιν ) means properly "to obtain by lot," as in Luke 1:9 . It is noticeable that one of the few places in which it occurs in the New Testament is in a speech of St. Peter's ( Acts 1:17 ); its use here implies that faith is a gift of God. The word for "like precious" equally precious) is found only here in the New Testament; it calls to our memory the πολὺ τιμιώτερον of 1 Peter 1:7 , and indicates a correspondence with the First Epistle. St. Peter addresses this Epistle simply to those who have obtained an equally precious faith "with us." By the last words he may mean himself only, or the apostles generally, or, possibly, all Jewish Christians. He is writing apparently to the same Churches to which his First Epistle was addressed ( 1 Peter 1:16 and 1 Peter 3:1 ); he says that their faith is equally precious with that of the apostles, or perhaps that the Gentiles have received the like precious gift with the chosen people. By "faith" he may mean the truths believed, as Jud 3; or, more probably, faith in the subjective sense, the grace of faith, which receives those truths as a message from God. Through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; rather, as in the Revised Version, in the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Some commentators, as Luther, Estius, etc., understand by "righteousness" in this place, the righteousness which God gives, as in Romans 10:3 , etc. But this seems unsuitable here; for faith is not given in righteousness, but rather righteousness in faith. Others take righteousness as the object of the faith—"to them that have Obtained faith in the righteousness;" i.e., who are enabled to believe in God's righteousness and to trust in it. This seems a forced interpretation. It is better to take the preposition as meaning "in the working of God's righteousness," in the sphere of its operation, and to understand "righteousness'' as the attribute of God, his just and holy dealing with men. There is no respect of persons with God; in his righteousness he bestows the like precious faith on all who come to him, without distinction of race or country. According to the strict grammatical construction of the passage, "God" and "Saviour" are both predicates of "Jesus Christ," as in Titus 2:13 . The First and Second Persons of the blessed Trinity are distinguished in the following verse, and this has led several commentators to think that the same distinction should be made here. It is true that the absence of a second article does not make it absolutely certain that the two words "God" and "Saviour" must be taken as united under the one common article, and so regarded as two predicates of "Jesus Christ;" but it furnishes at least a very strong presumption in favour of this view, especially as there is not here, as there is in Titus 2:13 , any word like ἡμῶν to give definiteness to σωτῆρος (see Bishop Ellicott's note on Titus 2:13 , and, on the other side, Alford's notes on both passages). The Lord Jesus is called "our Saviour" five times in this Epistle. The word does not occur in the First Epistle; but in St. Peter's speech ( Acts 5:31 ) the apostle declared to the Sanhedrin that God had exalted Jesus "to be a Prince and a Saviour."
I. ST . PETER 'S DESCRIPTION OF HIMSELF .
1 . His name. He wrote "Peter" simply in the First Epistle; he writes "Symeon Peter" now. Apparently he is writing to the same Churches as before; but it is a Second Epistle, he seems to know more of them—he gives his full name. That name contains the history of his soul: the first tells of his admission into the old covenant by circumcision; the second, of his admission into the new covenant through faith in Jesus Christ. He had passed through a great spiritual change; so had those to whom he was writing; they had been gathered, one by one, into the fold of Christ, some from heathenism, some from Judaism. His first name seemed to speak to his fellow-countrymen; he was a Jew, as they were; he bore the name of one of their old patriarchs. It means "hearing." God once heard the prayer of Leah, and gave her a second son; God had heard the prayers of Simon Barjona, had given him a new name, and had made him not only one of the living stones in the spiritual temple which he described in his First Epistle, but also one of those twelve foundations on which are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb ( Revelation 21:14 ).
2 . His office. He described himself in the First Epistle as "an apostle of Jesus Christ;" he again claims the same high title; but here adds the lowlier name of "servant." Christ's ministers must learn of their Master, who is meek and lowly in heart; if his providence has set them in high positions, they need all the more the precious grace of humility; it is the only safeguard against the many temptations of earthly ambition. And they must remember that they are the bondservants of Jesus Christ; he has given them work to do for him. They must watch for souls, as men that must give account: woe is unto them if they preach not the gospel!
II. HIS DESCRIPTION OF HIS READERS .
1 . What they are. They are believers. They had listened to the preaching of St. Paul and his companions. St. Paul had said, in his first sermon in Asia Minor, "By him all that believe are justified" ( Acts 13:39 ); he and Barnabas, Silvanus, and Timotheus, and other holy men, had gone about preaching the gospel of Christ. Many souls bad been gathered in; they had obtained like precious faith with those who had preached the faith to them. That faith was now their lot, their inheritance, their most precious possession. Faith is the gift of God: let it be our most earnest prayer, "Lord, increase our faith." For faith is precious exceedingly, above all earthly price. Sight is precious; blindness shuts a man out from so much brightness and joy. Faith is spiritual sight: by faith the believer sees "him who is invisible" ( Hebrews 11:27 ); he sees the promises afar off, and embraces them, and confesses that he is a stranger and a pilgrim on the earth. Spiritual blindness shuts a man out from all this bright and holy hope. "The world seeth me no more," the Lord said; "but ye see me" ( John 14:19 ). Then faith is far more precious than sight; without faith we are blind, ignorant, lost. Christ is the Way, and without faith we cannot find that Way, the only Way to life eternal. And the faith of the humblest Christian now is equally precious with the faith of the holiest apostle; it is the gift of the same God. It has the same blessed, justifying influences; it leads on to the same blessed end, everlasting life with God in heaven.
2 . How they became so. "In the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." He was in the form of God; he took upon him the form of a servant; thus, taking our nature to cleanse it, dying in that nature to atone for our sins, he became our Saviour. And in his righteousness he became the Saviour of the world, "the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe:" he tasted death for every man. Jew and Gentile are alike invited; the gospel is to be preached to every creature; all that are weary and heavy-laden are called to come to him. And none that come are cast out; in the holy working of his righteousness they obtain from him that precious faith which justifies the true believer. It is only within the sphere of the working of that righteous love that we can gain this precious gift. "Lord, increase our faith."
III. THE GREETING .
1 . The blessing invoked upon his readers. It is the old form of salutation which he had used in his First Epistle, word for word the same. He could express no holier wishes for them: what more can they need on whom the gracious favour of God abideth, who have received from him the blessed gift of peace? He prays again, as he had prayed before, that grace and peace may be multiplied; "men ought always to pray, and not to faint."
2 . Where those blessings are to be found. "In the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord." "This is life eternal," the Lord Jesus said, "that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." There is no spiritual life, there is no grace and peace, outside the sphere of the knowledge of God. But the knowledge which is life is personal knowledge; not that external knowledge which may be gained from books; but inner spiritual knowledge gained by communion with the Lord in prayer and holy sacrament, in the daily life of faith and self-denial, in the constant adoring contemplation of the life and death of Christ, in the habitual effort to live unto the Lord and to do all to the glory of God. St. Paul might well count all things but loss for the excellency of this knowledge; for the grace of God flows abundantly into the soul that seeks this heavenly wisdom, and the peace of God that passeth all understanding keepeth the heart that longeth for this inner knowledge of God and his Christ.
3 . Our warrant for expecting them. Grace and peace are very precious, above all that we can ask or think; we might shrink from asking for blessings so far above our deserts. But God hath called us, the invitation comes from him; freely of his own sovereign bounty he bids us come to him. He attracts us by his own glory and virtue, revealing to us his glorious attributes, manifesting his love and power in the ceaseless activity of his providence and his grace. Thus he kindles in the Christian soul the strong desire of the knowledge of God, he satisfies that desire by the revelation of himself; and through that full and holy knowledge, granted to them that hunger after righteousness, he gives them all things necessary for life and godliness—promises precious and exceeding great, precious beyond all price, inconceivably great in their grandeur and magnificence, and yet within our grasp, weak and helpless as we are, because the Divine power hath given them and the Divine word is pledged.
4 . Their greatness. The gifts of God must be great and precious, worthy of the Giver; the blessings which come from the energy of the Divine power must be deep and sacred. They are twofold.
1 . Faith is precious exceedingly; the knowledge of God and of his Christ is eternal life. Let us earnestly seek those sacred treasures.
2 . God has given us all things necessary for life and godliness. Let us thankfully accept his gifts and faithfully use them.
3 . Would you realize that highest gift of all, to be made partakers of the Divine nature? Then "love not the world: .. the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, are not of the Father, but are of the world."
We have, in the career and the fame of St. Peter, an extraordinary instance of a man rising from obscurity to renown. A Galilaean fisherman became the leader of the college of apostles, and has for centuries been acknowledged by the whole of Christendom as one of its inspired teachers and counselors; whilst by a great part of Christendom Peter has been regarded as the chief human head and ruler of the Church, first in his own person, and afterwards by those considered to be his successors. It is certainly very remarkable in how very many respects Peter stands first among our Lord's apostles. Confining ourselves to the scriptural narrative, disregarding all traditions, and giving no heed to superstitious claims, we cannot but admit the many evidences of St. Peter's primacy.
I. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG THE LITTLE GROUP OF CHOSEN DISCIPLES ADMITTED TO WITNESS CHRIST 'S GLORY . Peter was the first-mentioned of the three who saw the transfigured Son of man upon the holy mount; and it was he who, as the spokesman of the others, exclaimed, "It is good for us to be here."
II. PETER OCCUPIED THE SAME POSITION AMONGST THOSE CHOSEN TO TESTIFY OF THE SAVIOUR 'S HUMILIATION AND AGONY . Ill the garden of Gethsemane, Simon was one of the same band of three whom Jesus kept near to himself; and his prominent action in his Master's defense is proof of his admitted leadership.
III. PETER WAS THE FIRST OF THE APOSTLES TO BEAR WITNESS TO THE LORD 'S MESSIAHSHIP AND DIVINITY . It was his exclamation, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God," which called forth the Lord's approval and original blessing, "Blessed art thou, Simon," etc.
IV. PETER WAS THE FIRST TO PROCLAIM THE SAVIOUR 'S RESURRECTION FROM THE DEAD . Paul himself records that the risen Redeemer first appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. "The Lord hath risen indeed, and hath appeared unto Simon,"—such were the joyful tidings which circulated among the little company during the resurrection-day.
V. PETER WAS THE FIRST , AFTER THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT , TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO HIS FELLOW - MEN . Upon the Day of Pentecost he stood up, and in the name of the brethren published to the multitude the explanation of the marvelous events of that day. As the chief speaker and representative of the Church, he proclaimed, not only the facts of the Resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit, but pardon and salvation through the redemption which Christ had wrought.
VI. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG CHRISTIAN CONFESSORS TO ENDURE AND TO DEFY THE RACE OF THE PERSECUTOR . The storm broke upon the loftiest oak of the forest. Peter was naturally selected by the enemies of the faith as its most public and powerful representative, that he might be made to feel their power. But his attitude and language proved that he was conscious of the presence and support of One mightier than all those who were opposed to him.
VII. PETER WAS THE FIRST AMONG THE TWELVE TO WELCOME BELIEVING GENTILES INTO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST . The case of Cornelius, the circumstances attending the "Council of Jerusalem," are sufficient proof of this. Although the "apostle of the circumcision," it is plain that Peter was in fullest sympathy with that Divine move-meat of expansiveness which was to represent Christianity as the religion for mankind, and Christ as the Saviour of the world.
VIII. PETER WAS THE FIRST CONCERNING WHOM IT WAS FORETOLD THAT HE SHOULD SUFFER A DEATH OF MARTYRDOM FOR THE LORD WHOM HE LOVED . Jesus himself forewarned him of the fate which was before him, and even signified what death he should die. He who counted it an honour to fulfill his Lord's will, and to proclaim his Lord's grace and love, when the time came, counted it a joy to share his Master's reproach and to bear his Master's cross - J.R.T.
Divine blessing by human channels.
I. THE TYPE OF MAN BY WHOM BLESSING COMES TO MAN . No one can take any thoughtful view of the book we call the Bible without learning how largely man is the channel of the Divine thought, the Divine emotion, the Divine grace. "Men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." And their individual manhood colours and tones their teaching. So that not alone by the writings of men, but by their lives— biographies that cluster round the Great Biography, either in resemblance or in contrast to it—men are taught, warned, comforted, stimulated, and, in a sense in which St. Paul uses the word, "saved" by man. In this passage is a type of the man by whom God blesses men.
1 . In his manhood. "Simon Peter"—a name that recalls the story of his life, and discovers his temperament and unveils his ideal. The pearl is formed by some irritating substance causing discomfort, pain. So biography has its moral pearls. And St. Peter's is notable. There is pathos in the appeals of this letter, as we remember how "Peter went out and wept bitterly."
2 . In his office. "A servant and an apostle." This is the right order: first a bondman; then a herald, eager and brave.
II. THE COMMON CONDITION ON WHICH MEN MUST RECEIVE THE CHIEF BLESSINGS OF GOD . Peter writes to those who "have obtained like precious faith." Their possession of that qualifies them to receive the blessings this salutation desires for them. "Like precious faith." "Like," not necessarily equal, but similar. "Precious"—a favourite word of Peter's, used about "stone," "promises," "blood," "faith;" having a double thought—costly and cherished. "In the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ." "Righteousness:" what is that? Well does Charnock say, "Without it his patience would be indulgence to sin, his mercy a fondness, his wrath a madness, his power a tyranny, his wisdom an unworthy subtlety." But this righteousness gives glory to all. As we know it in Christ
We cannot attain it or maintain it without Christ.
III. THE SUPREME BLESSING MAN CAN DESIRE FOR MAN . "Grace and peace" (already noted in the first Epistle). Peace, the growth of grace. "Be multiplied." These in large degree. "In the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;" better translated, "full knowledge." Peter would recall his Lord's words in the upper room: "This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent," From that knowledge, and that alone, will flow grace and peace - U.R.T.